Annie: Norway's Electropop Heartthrob
- Words: Rob Wood
If you find yourself regularly throwing cushions at the TV in protest of the banality of most modern-day pop music, Annie has come to save you. Her sparkling, life-affirming songs may be destined for the charts but don’t be fooled–they are packed with a knowing cool that comes from the heart of underground Norway.
It was the breezy pop/house track “The Greatest Hit” that first got Annie Lilia Berge Strand noticed in 1999. Produced by her then partner Erot, it had all the hallmarks of Norway’s thriving late ‘90s alternative music scene, taking inspiration from everything from Larry Levan disco productions to The Ramones whilst stealing a sample from Madonna’s “Everybody.” The song’s contagious chorus made it a club hit from Paris to Stockholm to London. However, this blossoming singing and DJing career was painfully cut short when Erot died in 2001. Unable to face the world, Strand retreated from the scene she loved until she found the strength to go back to the clubs of her native Bergen.
Through DJing she met Finnish electro producer Timo who asked if she would consider putting vocals to his Opl:Bastards project. Soon they began work on what has become the core of Strand’s debut LP, Anniemal. What’s more, her label 679 made a canny choice for the album’s producer: bootleg guru Richard X. Effortlessly combining disco, electronica, house, and pop it dexterously crosses the divide between commercial accessibility and a contemporary dynamic edge. Despite turning down the likes of Britney Spears for remix work, fellow Norwegians Röyksopp dropped work on their new album to guest produce two tracks; adding further credibility are remixes for her “Heartbeat” single by Maurice Fulton and Alan Braxe.
The scene is now set for Annie to take her sound out on the road at key dates across Europe and the States. Whether she becomes the cool version of Kylie Minogue–name-checking the likes of Bjørn Torske, Kompakt, and the Tom Tom Club–remains to be seen. What is certain is that the marriage of Annie’s captivating vocals to dance music is infectious enough to give the likes of Usher and Maroon 5 a run for their lame-ass money.
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